Mary and Martha

In the day and age when many of us seem to be so busy, always on the run, and especially restless in both the physical and spiritual terms, I wonder if we have any time to rest or even to pray. Nonetheless, without prayers, we have very little depth and life-giving genuineness to give. Therefore, let us do some spiritual check-in with three simple questions:

  • When was the last time you pray well?
  • When was the last time you hear God speaks to you?
  • When was the last time you were able to soak in His goodness and rest in His love?

When I ask about prayer and praying well, I do not mean just coming to Him to ask for something or needing something immediately, but cut it short right afterward. These three questions are important to remind ourselves of our priorities and what is important for our life of faith. In the encounter with Sts. Mary and Martha of Bethany, (cf. Luke 10:38-42) the Lord Jesus Christ reminded them — and us — that the better part is to find time to rest in the midst of the busyness of life. He did not dismiss St. Martha‘s desire to be hospitable and care for her most welcomed guest, He reminded her that it is important, too, to sit and rest, receiving and embracing the goodness of the Almighty.

The Church is not asking us to be contemplative religious who are cloistered, closed off from the world in a life of fervent prayer, for that is their particular vocation and not ours. Many of us are not called to that state of life! However, the Church is asking you and I to be active contemplatives, to be both Mary and Martha, to be both prayerful and spiritual missionaries and witnesses of the Gospel. Hence, in order to live this universal call to holiness, we need to avoid the two extremes of either isolating ourselves totally and completely from the world, building an enclave in isolating ourselves from the people around us, or so busy doing anything and everything that we have no time to rest in God, having no personal space and place to rest and come back to spiritually.

We also need to avoid the either/or mentality in saying that, “My works are my prayers to God,” or, “My prayers are the only thing worthwhile in life.” Contrary, what we have received in our prayers need to be enlivened and integrated in our daily works. We bring our works, our words and actions, to prayer as to reflect, understand, and seek the will of God. Our prayer and work are not an either/or option, it is a necessary both/and reality — holistic and integrated. If we do not have the depth of prayer, our actions become self-serving and ego-centered. If we do not serve others, only wanting to pray all day, we end up running away from our duties and responsibilities. It is important, therefore, to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ did both! He prayed often, caring in words and actions.

Therefore, if you and I do not have time to pray and rest, we might miss God passing by. If we do not have time to pray, we will end up downplaying Him and His truths. If we are not humble enough, we stop trying to seek His will, only wanting to be affirmed and hearing “YES” from Him as to satisfy our hearts’ desires. If we do not have time to sit at His feet to listen, be humble in following Him, our works will be in vain. As a matter of fact, it is very easy in our life of faith to create idols, different images of God to fit our likings and agendas.

At the end of the day, it does not help us if we act like a god, demand or expect God to be our servant in giving us what we think is best for us. Nevertheless, when we are truly grounded in the love of God, to listen and receive from Him from the heart, we are able to make compassionate, loving, and constructive criticisms of our culture when it goes astray. As Christians, we are not to become worldly or simply to abandon and retire from the world! We do not isolate ourselves in our own ghettos or enclaves. We judge all things according to the truth and lovingly call people back to the necessary theocentric way of life.

This past summer, one of our air conditioner units was out. After a short diagnostic, the repairman was able to identify the cause, which is a failed capacitator. I was not surprised when it was the same (typical) diagnosis, because this has been a repetitive and regular cause of our problems! Even though a big commercial unit could pump out tens of tons of cool air, it is deemed ineffective and could not operate properly when the small plastic capacitator fails to connect the electrical current and send signals to operate, regulating the unit with the main circuit board, thermostat, and controller. As a matter of fact, the unit was useless and was just blowing hot air until the capacitator was replaced.

You see… Prayer is like that small, many times forgotten, and “insignificant” looking capacitator that connects us to what gives us life and who gives us life. Without prayer, we just blow hot air, no matter how hard we try because we are not connected to the life-giving source. Prayer grounds us in what gives life — divine grace — and who gives us life — God. Many times, we have looked elsewhere, trying to make sense of life, and do so many different things but forget the often-forgotten, seem-to-be-small act of lifting up our hearts to connect with the One who gives us life, Who makes all things connect and makes sense.

“Pray well, work hard, serve genuinely, and love passionately!” Those were the words given to me at my priestly ordination by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, and I wish to share them with you now. Therefore, do not be afraid to pray, reflect on all things, and allow everything to bring us to deeper prayer and trust in the Almighty. He is always there! I pray that we can try to be both Sts. Mary and Martha in our daily prayers and actions.